Norquist: Immigration is good for the GOP

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

Americans for Tax Reform head Grover Norquist says that large-scale immigration is good for America and the Republican Party — and that critics of easy immigration should get out of the way.

“There are a whole bunch of people who are listening to loud voices, some of whom claim to be Republican … talking about [employers] who didn’t fill out the paperwork, about going after [an immigrant’s] aunt,” said Norquist, whose opposition to tax increases has made him popular among Republicans and a hate-figure among progressives.

Once advocates for tighter immigration are sidelined, the GOP will be able to win votes from Hispanics and other recent immigrants, he said.

“Removing that threat [of deportation] from millions of Americans will make it possible to have a conversation with [immigrants] about tax policy and spending, and all the other issues we have with legal Americans.”

But his critics are numerous and equally vehement.

“Grover is an extremely effective lobbyist … [and] the thing about Grover is that he has clients who make big money off of immigration,” said Roy Beck, founder of advocacy group NumbersUSA, a non-partisan group which helped derail previous efforts to expand immigration.

“Grover is going to do everything in his power to prevent America having a middle class … it appears he thinks oligarchy is a better way to go. … You can’t have a Republican Party when you have a voting base that is impoverished and needs government assistance.”

Norquist has been pushing to rewrite immigration policy for many years, and he’s got his arguments down cold.

“We do immigration reform for the same reason we do tax reform: because it is good for the country,” Norquist told The Daily Caller. To Norquist, any reform that allows employers to hire foreigners when they are a better value than Americans will also help advocates of small government.

“All efforts that move towards the free market and fewer government restrictions are good for the party of liberty, because the more people live in liberty, the more people are willing to become Republicans,” he said.

To get there, Norquist wants immigration governed by the free market for labor. He backs few limits on who would arrive from where — Egypt or Ecuador, Bolivia or Bulgaria, Uzbekistan or Uruguay. The inflow “should be market-driven. … There isn’t a fixed number.”

Federal data show that roughly 20 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, and that the wages of most Americans have been level or declining for decades. (RELATED ANALYSIS: Why immigrants stand to gain in President Barack Obama’s economy)

But the jobs will appear as the immigrants arrive, Norquist insisted, adding that high-tech employers say they already have 80,000 open jobs that could be filled by immigrants with H1-B visas for skilled labor.

“I want them filled tomorrow, not in two years,” he said, noting that Americans will get a first crack at jobs. Even when foreigners fill jobs, such as a chef in a restaurant, they also provide employment for others, according to Norquist.

“When you bring in these H1-B visa jobs, they create jobs for other people — you can’t have chefs if you don’t have guys waiting tables.”

Other countries have different approaches. Canada and the United Kingdom reject unskilled immigrants, while Japan is developing human-like robots to do low-skill jobs. But companies should be allowed to import low-skilled labor as they see fit, Norquist said.

“We need high-skilled and unskilled labors. … We don’t have enough workers in the farms. … Low-wage immigrants are not low-wage all their life. … They start moving up as individuals and by generations.”

Beck disagreed with Norquist’s preference for the international labor market.

“As long as folks like Grover are flooding the labor market to suppress wages and keep the poor poor, poor Hispanics are going to vote Democratic. … If you need a safety net, you’re going to vote for a safety net,” said Beck. (RELATED — Expert: Bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill would cost billions)

Already, 75 percent of Hispanics prefer big government to small government, according to a April 2012 Pew poll. In November, 71 percent voted for President Obama, and only 27 percent pulled the lever for Mitt Romney, who is far less libertarian that Norquist. (RELATED: Polling data show bad news for GOP on immigration)

Under Norquist’s open-borders policy, said Beck, “you can’t have a Republican Party when you have a voting base that is impoverished and needs government assistance.”

Norquist normally pushes “for low taxes and small government, but when it comes to immigration, he always supports [economic] principles that result in larger government,” said Beck.

Norquist had few kind words for Beck’s group.

“They don’t like people,” he said. “Their [view is that] numbers look better when they have fewer people. What kind of metric is that, when more car accidents make them look better? … Maybe they should be in favor of not wearing seat-belts.”

Beck whacked right back.

“There is nothing that NumbersUSA has ever said, written or supported that would reduce the U.S. population,” he told TheDC. “Grover is for hire. Grover goes where the money takes him. If an American employer can pay someone a dollar a hour, of course he will, and that means we Americans will live at third-world standards.”

The NumbersUSA founder also said he has public opinion on his side. A January Rasmussen poll of 1,000 likely voters reported that 83 percent believe it is very or somewhat important to “improve border enforcement and reduce illegal immigration.”

But the Rasmussen poll shows a conflicted — and perhaps uninformed — public. The overwhelming majority opposes illegal immigration, yet 64 percent said it is very or somewhat important to “legalize the status of illegal immigrants.”

“Guess who will not be making those wages? Grover!” Beck said. “Because he’s a gun for hire. … It is only the average working American that he doesn’t give a damn about, even if they’re completely impoverished and living at third-world standards.”

Compared to Europe and other countries, “We do immigration well … [although] it doesn’t seem like it if you’re one of the recent guys who has showed up,” said Norquist, who is a board member of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, which is pushing for easier immigration rules.

“America is the future, and Japan isn’t,” Norquist continued. “Why? [Because] Japan doesn’t have kids, and they don’t do immigration. … Europe can’t even accept the Romanians and Bulgarians, and they sit and whine about [immigrant] Polish plumbers.”

“Having more people doesn’t reduce the standard of living. … People are not the same thing as marbles.”

The GOP can win a large slice of the Hispanic vote, he said. Many immigrant groups voted Democratic “when they first started showed up … [but] that doesn’t last forever,” Norquist said.

“Stop the [enforcement] threats, knock it off … Everybody will turn Republican when the modern Republican Party remembers never to raise taxes or get in wars in countries they can’t pronounce.”

Follow Neil on Twitter